Retooling Ethical Behavior With Agrarian Leadership

Summary: Examine the concept of agrarian leadership in today’s society. Dr. Green shares how to infuse ethical behavior in the workplace with a different type of leadership. 

We live in a digital economy. Technology and innovation continue to improve our wants and desires. Like the Great Roman Empire, the moral decay in our society will slowly eat us from the inside out. In order to improve leaders’ value systems, we need to regain the values of agrarian society. Leadership expert Vana Prewitt argues that the current leadership theories are based on modernist assumptions and are out of date with leading today’s postmodern organizations. Given this dilemma, I advocate for a different kind of 21st leadership.

Today’s leaders need a fresh and authentic outlook, which is morally sound. In fact, a leader’s vision must be deeply rooted. Ian Palmer, Richard Dunford, and David Buchanan, authors of Managing Organizational Change explain, “Visions are thus linked to strategy and competitive advantage, enhancing organizational performance and sustaining growth… A lack of vision, on the other hand, is associated with organizational decline and failure.” Let’s look at Agrarian leadership. Agrarian leadership is defined as a contextual influence that has an impact on subordinates’ attitudes and performance by leaders who are both value and results driven. Agrarian leaders view their followers as critical parts of the socio-technical system. Therefore, technology does not drive the value system of society.

Before the Industrial Revolution, life was centered on land and labor. Life was simple for the leader in the agrarian society. Rural living revolved around the land; owning it was equivalent to self-sufficiency and liberty. Although Americans lived in a tribal structure prior to the Agrarian Era (1650-1849), farming communities operated in a decentralized economy.

Agrarians exercised a strong spirituality and a deep respect for the environment. There was a genuine concern for neighbors and co-workers. Being a leader was a major responsibility. In fact, farmers were like heroes because of their hard work, contributions to society, independence, and moral standards. A man’s word meant something. With the transition from an agrarian to industrial society, untainted leadership was lost.

The Industry Revolution meant major changes to the American way of life. Before that period, over 90% of Americans lived rurally. Farmers influenced society. Between 1870 and 1900, rural areas doubled and the urban regions tripled. Farmers were cautious about these societal changes.

Industrial managers faced challenges, such as generating new efficiencies while expanding operations. Chaos theory was in effect because those managers couldn’t control these organizational changes (both inside and outside). Factory managers lacked a process to motivate the unskilled (former agrarian) workforce. This era created new advances and new problems.

The Industrial Revolution forever changed agrarian society, primarily due to market economy and technology. Farmers were less self-sufficient and became “economic market” slaves. This created a conflict because farmers and industrial society had different values. Farming became more productive, but fewer farmers were needed.

As a result of these advances, farmers lost their independence, family focus, and societal influence on moral conduct. For example, some managers found factory workers breaking equipment. Consequently, managers tried to institute positive and negative rewards; these managers used conventional wisdom: “the hungriest man makes the best worker.” Once again, humanity was moving away from his calling—the land.

Therefore, advances in technology do not always equate to a better society. Many techno advocates would argue that technology has provided superior virtues. I beg to differ. First, technology doesn’t automatically improve society. In over 50 years, America has gone from rural to city and from national to international markets. Richard Critchfield, author of Trees, Why Do You Wait: America’s Changing Rural Culture, argues that these advancements have weakened our core values, such as family tradition and work ethic.

Secondly, the disintegration of the agrarian code has destroyed our moral stability. Osha Davidson, the author of Broken Heartlands, suggests that technology and the economic prestige of the agricultural system brought a host of social ills, such as poverty, depopulation, and soil erosion.

In closing, we may consider agrarian lifestyle primitive. However, agrarian values shouldn’t be forgotten as good leadership attributes. We continue to advance technology rapidly while the values of society continue to disintegrate with each innovation. In society, many leaders exhibit unethical conduct, pursuing wealth. Throughout American history, we see the consequences. Let’s pray it’s not too late for agrarian leadership.

Please discuss agrarian leadership as it relates to a changing world.

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Cultural Intelligence: How Leaders Can Navigate the Racial Divide in America

Racial Divide-2017

In June of 1995, the Jury in the OJ Simpson trial announced a verdict of not guilty. The aftermath of dismal reactions highlighted significant conflicts and diverging views in America’s workplaces. In fact, white and black people had a different perspective on the OJ Simpson Trial and life in general. Eighty-three percent of whites stated that Simpson was “definitely” or “probably” guilty while only fifty-seven percent of blacks agreed with this assessment. Rather than carefully assessing one’s own viewpoint when evaluating a different culture, most individuals make assumptions about other cultures definitely.

Sadly, we still have not learned this lesson in the United States. The last several days have been very hectic as I try to answer students’ questions and address my own concerns about a recent Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary gaff that has provided another headwind for others sharing the Good News. Let me say that we have all done foolish things and have suffered the consequences. Most of us have had to debase the impacts of this photo on our popular culture to our students and others.

In the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth (TX), five seminary professors, including the dean of the School of Preaching, put on gangster-style clothing (perhaps dressing like urban rappers), flashing their gold chains and one holding a handgun. Written above the photo were the words “Notorious S.O.P,” which was a reference to the seminary’s School of Preaching and to the black rapper, Notorious B.I.G.

the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary-photo

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The Power of Gratitude for Professionals

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I watched people get on and off the elevator at work. It was crowded with working professionals. Being a young employee, I and the janitor were strategically located in the back of the elevator. I greeted the janitor since I routinely would speak to all employees, regardless of their pecking order in the organization. Other professionals ignored this janitor in the elevator as if his existence didn’t matter. When the janitor or other service folks would do something for me, I would say ‘thank you.’ Well, I’ve done this act of gratitude as part of my learning from my parents who were hardworking class people. My mother would tell us (children): “You can’t go wrong doing good for others.” I believed her.

Yet, we live in a selfish world where the needs for themselves supersede the needs of others, with gratitude and thanks being a rare commodity in today’s working culture. When I talk with my college students, I attempt to show them how the little things like ‘thank you’ cards to guest speakers in class is more than a cute idea. For me, gratitude is a connection with humanity. Gratitude shows that you care. In fact, those individuals that master this act of kindness will have a competitor advantage over those who do not practice this virtue. Let’s examine the concept of gratitude for today’s working professionals in society.

Professionals must overcome a world of selfishness in order to appreciate gratitude. Employees face a gloomy landscape before them with global competition reducing their standard of life and wages stagnant. People aren’t feeling thankful and grateful to be moving backward to the standard of living that their own parents had. Statistics support this ingratitude emerging before us. According to a 2014 Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey, the majority (52%) of US workers are not satisfied with their jobs. In 2010, worker dissatisfaction was at an all-time low of 43%.

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Marketing students (MKTG 3303) take photo with Enterprise Manager Jackie Lovejoy. The students thanked her.

Columnist Susan Adams has been tracking this unhappiness trend: “What worries workers most: layoffs. Even though hiring has picked up, only 46.6% of employees say they feel satisfied with their job security, compared to 48.5% before the recession.” Working professionals have many stressors to consider including layoffs, family issues, health care cost, career advancements, and wage compensation. How in the world can gratitude be at the top of their list for developing?

Gratitude is an invaluable trait in a world built of self-promotion and personal gratification. President John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Management expert Brian Tracy further expounded on this concept of gratitude: “Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step towards achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.”

Gratitude can be defined as ‘the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Some people will argue that gratitude is rooted in biblical truths and communal relationships in society. From a faith perspective, gratitude is not taking. It is about giving to others despite how others have treated you.

II Corinthians 9:11 reads “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” Even if you don’t possess a religious bone in your body, showing individuals appreciation who do good for you can’t be foreign. Yet, the concept of gratitude is difficult to implement in the face of trials and tribulations in life. If people are able to look at others who are in a worse situation and appreciate the fact that they are better off, it is possible for gratitude to grow in people. Given the fact that gratitude is connected to relationships, words like gratitude, giving, and thanks are themes of helping and appreciating others in life.

Unfortunately, developing gratitude in working professionals is a difficult task. Many organizations are built on power structures that reward takers and those individuals who are great at putting situations at their own advantage. Most of who are only vaguely interested in recognizing or thanking others if doing these actions will benefit them professionally.

Some business-oriented individuals may argue that this gratitude characteristic is a weakness in a corporate rat race and that takers are at the advantage. In contrast, Dr. Adam Grant, author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drive Our Success, explains the different mentality of givers and takers in the workforce: “Takers have distinctive signature: they like to get more than they give. They tilt reciprocity in their own favor, putting their own interest ahead of other’s needs…If you are a giver, you might use a different cost-benefit analysis; you help whenever the benefits to others exceed personal cost.”

Dr. Grant’s research further demonstrated that givers are more successful in the long-run. Helping others provide leverage and influence in life. Givers are better at giving than takers because of their genuineness in striving to be generous in their time, energy, skills, knowledge, and connections to benefit others. How do I grow my gratitude in my life? That’s a great question to consider.

Unless it’s Thanksgiving or a special occasion, most professionals will not consider the merits of gratitude in helping them in life. This article demonstrated that employees are unhappy in the workplace and face many hardships in life that causes them to look inside themselves instead of helping others. Gratitude is a soft skill that has a positive effect on others.

Even celebrities like Marilyn Monroe realized the importance of gratitude: “When you have a good friend that really cares for you and tries to stick in there with you, you treat them like nothing. Learn to be a good friend because one day you’re gonna look up and say I lost a good friend…Always remember to smile and look up at what you got in life.” Life is a like a blade of grass that passes with time. Gratitude is something that you can use for a lifetime. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

© 2016 by Daryl D. Green

Humility in Leadership: The MIT Principle

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I just sat and listened. Bob, the director, talks about how the universities wanted to give back to the society. In fact, this prestigious university opened its doors to young engineering students who were a part of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Faculty and staff were all communicating that the impossible was possible. The place was the highly regarded Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory. Everyone goes by their first names, doctorate or not. Egos are checked at the door (well everyone is brilliant).

One MIT staff member explains this reality, “Everyone here is smart.” If someone comes in cocky, there is someone who is smarter than him in another area. That keeps people ‘in check’. I was a little stunned. I had imagined an MIT culture where innovative mavericks were left to their own devices independent of others to produce incredible solutions for society. Yet, sharing, service, and working together appeared to carry a lot of weigh on campus.

Many people feel that leadership is about being the brightest and sharpest ‘cat on the block.’ At times, I have worked with some of the most brilliant people in the world, having federal oversight of two national laboratories in my career. This article examines the concepts of humility in today’s leaders. Additionally, the MIT Principle is developed so that all leaders understand that even high achievers need a sense of humility to work in high performing organization.

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Even brilliant students at MIT need humility in order to be successful on campus. The MIT Principle, as I dubbed, can be an important lesson to learn. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a special place filled with innovators and overachievers. MIT is a private institution which was founded in 1861.1 In 2016, MIT was ranked 7th best university in the nation in the 2016 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities.

The school’s mascot is a beaver, which MIT chose because of its “remarkable engineering and mechanical skill and its habits of industry.” High achievers from across the nation flock to MIT to gain great tutorage in their disciplines and make their market on society with their ‘geniusness.’ MIT boasts in highly regarded programs in engineering, management, and sciences. Additionally, research expenditures generally exceed $650 million each year. 2

In MIT culture, students are expected to be leaders in their respective fields and problem solvers with new novel ideas. Yet, collaboration is a high principle at MIT. In fact, sharing and service are part of this culture. Students, faculty, and support institutions are expected to work together for a common good. Given this scenario, each student must find a valuable contribution that he/she can make to the student project, teams, and industry collaborations. Even the most brilliant individual at MIT must apply some humility in being successful because they must submit to the good of the organization instead of their own selfish ambitions. The MIT Principle states that in order to achieve overall success for the organization or team, individuals at some point will have to sacrifice their own personal goals for the organization.

Dr. Green’s Visit to MIT (Animoto video) – Click Here

Humility is a character trait that will serve leaders well in a knowledge-based economy. Humility can be defined as ‘a modest or low view of one’s own importance.’ When one thinks about humility, one of the first adjectives that come to mind is humble or humbleness. Some ideas come to mind about a humble individual; not proud or arrogant. If you are a sport fan, you have probably seen star athletes that ‘show boat’ and bring attention to themselves that they are great.

Certainly, some of the greatest like Muhammad Ali used this attitude to build his own confidence. Ali noted, “At home I am a nice guy; but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.” Humility often requires a person to defer or submit to other people.

Jonathan Edwards, a Puritan theologian in the 18th century, examined the matter of humility in human existence; he defined a humble man as one who is sensitive to his natural distance from God.3 Thus, man has a dependency on God that shows humans their insufficiency of their own wisdom and power. Edwards explained: “Some persons are always ready to level those above them down to themselves, while they are never willing to level those below them up to their own position. But he that is under the influence of true humility will avoid both these extremes.

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On the one hand, he will be willing that all should rise just so far as their diligence and worth of character entitled to them; and on the other hand, he will be willing that his superiors should be known and acknowledged in their place, and have rendered to them all the honors that are due to them.” Leaders are no exception. Leadership guru, John Maxwell notes, “A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” The following are ways that leaders can cultivate a humble spirit:

* Have a faith that supersedes your wisdom.
* Learn lessons from each defeat, dejection, and heartache in which you have no control and are forced to humility.
* Respect others regardless of their position and title in your organization.
* Seek wise counsel from folks you trust and who have an interest in your success.
* Learn how to listen to others.

As organizations research ways to be more effective and productive, leaders explore how they can navigate uncertainty. Leaders can start by applying some humility in the manner that they relate to their employees, managers, and other stakeholders. Like MIT, individuals often need to control their own personal ambitions in light of the organization. If organizations are willing and capable to infuse their organizations with a good sense of humility, they will be infusing their organizations with a healthy trait that will serve them well in the current climate of uncertainty. I pray that it’s not too late for them!

© 2016 by Daryl D. Green

Sources

“Massachusetts Institute of Technology” by Colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com

“Jonathan Edwards” by Theopedia.com

 

Grit in Effective Leadership

GRIT-mental-toughness1

As the U.S. presidential election goes into full swing following both major conventions, voters will be considering which candidate will serve best as the nation’s leader.  This decision is not an easy one, as both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have some of the worst favorability ratings in history.  Ideally, voters should be thinking about candidates’ character traits, but most will prioritize self-interest and vote based on their pocketbooks.  Media pundits will analyze every insignificant point as if it is…well, significant.  In the face of global terrorism and financial uncertainty, what character trait genuinely sets a successful leader apart?  Problems will arise.  Trouble will come, and leaders who possess intrinsic drive will have the highest chance of overcoming obstacles and external factors in their environment.  We will examines the nature of grit for leaders caught in today’s chaotic world.

Effective leaders have a special quality called “grit,” which refers to a drive to overcome all sorts of hurdles.  People define grit in various ways: according to Gostrengths.com, grit is “a personality trait possessed by individuals who demonstrate passion and perseverance toward a goal despite being confronted by significant obstacles and distractions.”  Along similar lines, blogger AJ Julian wrote an article on grit in education in which he shared an outstanding acronym: Guts, Resilience, Integrity, Tenacity.[1]

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Living Purposefully – Special Tribute to Coach Pat Head Summitt

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Amidst turmoil across the world, there is still good among us. Living in Tennessee, I had the opportunity to witness the exemplary character of Coach Pat Head Summitt, former head coach of University of Tennessee Lady Vols. I would like to pay my own tribute to this special leader in our community. Most people affectionately called her ‘Coach Pat.’

Coach Summitt lived a life of purpose from a humble beginning.  Her success in life was incredible: Coach Summitt achieved 1,098 career wins, the most in NCAA basketball history. She won 8 NCCA championships – and the Lady Vols never missed an NCAA tournament under Coach Summitt.[1] In one NCAA tournament, Summitt posted a 112-23 record, achieving a Division I record with the 112 wins. Additionally, she won two Olympic medals: one as a coach and one as a player, alongside numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. [2] Continue reading

Authentic Leadership in a Global Environment

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Today’s employees expect managers to model corporate values. Sadly, some managers do not take this invisible code seriously.  Hypocrisy is the rule of the day. When I was sitting in my Sunday lecture, the instructor brought home what it meant to be hypocritical when discussing Jesus’ interaction with the leaders of his time, The Pharisees. Jesus openly criticized their actions to his followers in Matthew 23:2: “Therefore, whatever they [Pharisees] tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do their works. For they speak, but do nothing. They fasten heavy loads that are hard to carry and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with their finger.” Sadly, many workers face some less than genuine managers that fail to inspire them for greater performance.  In this post, we will examine the concept of authentic leadership in today’s society. Continue reading

Valuing Servant-hood for Today’s Leaders

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When I was growing up, my mother was the youth director of our church.  In elementary school, there are pressures about being cool.  I was an active church member (and yes, a choir boy in the literal sense).

My mother expected her children to be the model young person, which involved participating in church required activities.  For me, that meant participating in morning worship where the youth were required to lead devotion periodically. A call for volunteers would go out to the youth.  Of course, most of my peers felt comfortable rejecting those requests to participate. Continue reading

Value Modeling

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Last week, we started the discussion about socio-technical systems and its impact on today’s organizations.   In the next few weeks, we will address three practical applications (i.e. value modeling, technology relevancy, and human factor buy-in).  Understanding value modeling is a critical attribute that managers need to acquire in times of uncertainty and high risks.  Effective leadership becomes the hallmark of high performing organizations. 

Organizations must model its values to both first-line supervisors and managers in a socio-technical system.  However, it won’t happen without good leadership.  Leadership is defined as the ability to influence others toward a shared objective or goal. 

Dr. Richard Daft explains that today’s employers are looking for authentic leaders who understand them, act consistent with high ethical standards, and empowers others with their openness and candor.  Dr. Daft argues, “To be authentic means being real, staying true to one’s values and beliefs, and acting based on one’s true self rather than emulating what others do.”

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2SKTP43oRQ

Yet, some organizations expect employees to understand its culture, its values, and its principles by attending new employee orientation or by reading a company brochure. This is simply not the case. Vince Adams, who has over 20 years as an environmental manager, understands delicacy of balancing a socio-technical system.

Adams has extensive experiences with both government and private organizations that are finding themselves neglecting to outline and demonstrate its value systems to employees.[1] Adams states, “Companies must build values into their employees so that employees know what the expectations are for that organization.”

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, have researched several thousand businesses and government executives and they outline setting the example as a critical attribute of an effective leadership.[2] Kouzes and Posner argue, “Once people are clear about the leader’s values, about their own values, and about shared values, they know what’s expected of them and can better handle the conflicting demands of work and personal affairs.”  Therefore, employees expect leaders in organizations to model these values in their organizations, and this is also true for socio-technical systems. 

Discuss the concept of value modeling for today’s leaders. 

© 2013 by Daryl D. Green                                    

 


[1]“Leading others while supporting organizational values” by Daryl D. Green

[2] The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner